WEST HARTFORD — The Hall High School class of 1960 has established a fund to award grants to student groups in order to benefit the “common good.”
Barrie Gleason is one of 13 members of the class of 1960 who worked to establish the fund with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
Gleason, who now lives in Somerville, Mass., said the idea came when the group started using Zoom to stay in touch after their 60th high school reunion was canceled due to the pandemic.
“There were a handful of us who started meeting on Zoom and reminiscing about the times that we lived through and recalling the climate of social unrest that we experienced,” Gleason said. “We were just kind of imagining what it would be like for current students. We started toying with ideas of how might we support current students as they mature and go through their high school years during the current climate of social unrest.”
What they landed on was an idea that would allow student groups at Hall High School to apply for grant funding they could then put towards some kind of beneficial project in their community. The fund is aptly named the Hall High Fund for the Common Good.
So far, more than$60,000 has been raised from 54 members of the class of 1960. As of right now, around $2,500 in total will be awarded each year in perpetuity to student groups.
A review board including the school’s principal, Dan Zittoun, other educators and Hall students, will review submitted grant proposals before selecting how to award the fund’s first ever grant.
“What I’m excited about is just seeing where the possibilities go,” Zittoun said. “That’s what’s so exciting about this. It can go in so many directions. What I’ve learned about the Hall community is that they don’t need a lot of structure. You can just give them a couple of ideas and they will often exceed any expectations I give them.”
Gleason said she’s hoping student groups think about the issues their community faces while considering proposals.
“The purpose would be to say to students, what are the issues that are of importance to you,” Gleason said. “What would you do, what’s an arena of interest to you, and what would you do on behalf of the common good. Can you think of a project, describe a project that would support the common good and is doable within a year’s time?”
Zittoun said it was important to give students ownership over the entirety of the project, which is why they purposefully made it so students can outvote the faculty on the review board.
“I really kind of want to see where they go and take ownership on this,” Zittoun said. “We’re pretty fortunate as a community to have some resources to use. Like I try to do most of the time, I get out of the students’ way and see where their vision is. You try to encourage them to understand that this is their school for the four years and to make the most of that and have ownership in the community.”